NRL on edge amid latest quarantine rule breach

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·Sports Reporter
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Wests Tigers' James Roberts ventured out onto the balcony of his room in hotel quarantine, against Queensland government rules.
Wests Tigers' James Roberts is under investigation after allegedly breaching the strict hotel quarantine rules players are subject to in Queensland. (Photo by Steven Markham/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wests Tigers player James Roberts is the latest NRL star under investigation for breaching Covid-19 quarantine protocols in Queensland, placing the remainder of the season in jeopardy.

The NRL is already on thin ice with the Queensland state government after families of NRL players, who are currently in hotel quarantine, were caught passing food to one another from their balconies.

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As a result, the state government ordered them to provide evidence that the doors and windows of their rooms had been taped shut, in order to prevent any potential transmission of the virus while in quarantine.

In a move that could further jeopardise the fragile relationship between the NRL and the Queensland government, Roberts was spotted using the balcony in his hotel room despite the clear directive to stay indoors.

"The NRL has today reported a breach of the current balcony directive to Queensland Health by Wests Tigers player James Roberts," said a statement via the club.

"The NRL and Wests Tigers are providing James with additional wellbeing support to assist him in coping with quarantine and will continue to work closely with Queensland Health."

The 28-year-old Roberts is reportedly struggling with the conditions of the hard lock down and has previously battled mental health issues.

Last season he sought help in a mental health facility during the COVID-19 shut down.

The former representative centre was unable to travel to Queensland and into the NRL bubble with his teammates after he was forced into a 14-day quarantine for attending a supermarket in Sydney that was later deemed a COVID-19 exposure site.

Queensland's chief medical officer, Dr Jeanette Young, had warned the league last Friday of her dwindling tolerance for such indiscretions, warning further transgressions could result in the league being kicked out of the state entirely.

“I’m getting very close to it (revoking the NRL's exepmtions)," she said last Friday.

“If I have any more breaches, I am very concerned.

“It’s for all of them. This is too risky. We just cannot have people deliberately breaching the rules.”

NRL players set for freedom on Wednesday

The NRL's strict COVID bubble is set to burst on Wednesday with players to be granted their freedom again for the first time in a month.

The majority of players will complete their two-week quarantine stint on Wednesday, after travelling from NSW and the ACT earlier this month.

The NRL had promised they would assess the situation in south-east Queensland then, before making the next call.

That risk has been deemed as minimal, meaning players will now return to the same light level-one protocols that were in place when Sydney was COVID-free this year.

State of Origin players and Melbourne's squad will have to wait an extra day or two for their freedom, after entering the hub later.

ARLC boss Peter V'landys believes the NRL will need to remain in Queensland for the rest of the season, given the dire coronavirus situation in Sydney. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
ARLC boss Peter V'landys believes the NRL will need to remain in Queensland for the rest of the season, given the dire coronavirus situation in Sydney. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

"We will be guided by the government but yes we'll go back to level one," ARL Commission chair Peter V'landys told AAP.

"We always go back to the threat in the community and there is no infections there."

Players had been in hard level-four restrictions since the start of the COVID outbreak last month.

The news comes with the NRL certain to extend their stay in Queensland beyond the original four weeks that were scheduled.

The COVID threat in Sydney remains a serious concern, with a sixth straight day of triple-figure cases on Monday.

"We look at the data each day and it's our view at the moment that it's certainly not getting better," V'landys said.

"We are planning various scenarios looking at the data.

"It's not going to be risk-free in Sydney any time soon."

With AAP

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